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Priority Lien - Delaware



Common Interests and Ownership of Real Estate


Subchapter III. Management of the Common Interest Community


§ 81-316. Lien for assessments.

(a) The association has a statutory lien on a unit for any assessment levied against that unit or fines imposed against its unit owner. Unless the declaration otherwise provides, fees, charges, late charges, fines, and interest charged pursuant to § 81-302(a)(10), (11), and (12) of this title, and any other sums due the association under the declaration, this chapter or as a result of an administrative or judicial decision, together with court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in attempting collection of the same, are enforceable in the same manner as unpaid assessments under this section. If an assessment is payable in installments, the lien is for the full amount of the assessment from the time the first installment thereof becomes due. Unless the declaration provides for a different rate of interest, interest on unpaid assessments shall accrue at the rate of the lesser of 18% per annum or the highest rate permitted by law.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in the declaration, a lien under this section is prior to all other liens and encumbrances on a unit except (i) liens and encumbrances recorded before the recordation of the declaration and, in a cooperative, liens and encumbrances which the association creates, assumes, or takes subject to, (ii) a first or second security interest on the unit recorded before the date on which the assessment sought to be enforced became delinquent, or, in a cooperative, the first or second security interest encumbering only the unit owner's interest and perfected before the date on which the assessment sought to be enforced became delinquent, and (iii) liens for real estate taxes and other governmental assessments or charges against the unit or cooperative. The lien shall have priority over the security interests described in paragraph (ii) above for an amount not to exceed the aggregate customary common expense assessment against such unit for 6 months as determined by the periodic budget adopted by the association pursuant to § 81-315(a) of this title; provided that for the lien to have priority over the security interests described in paragraph (ii) above, an association with assessments shall have recorded in the county or counties in which the common interest community is located a document which contains the name of the association, the address, a contact telephone number, a contact e-mail address and a web-site address, if any. In addition, the association shall have recorded at any time, but not less than 30 days prior to the sheriff's sale of a unit in its common interest community for which common expense assessments are due, a statement of lien which shall include a description of such unit, the name of the record owner, the amount due and the date due, the amount paid for recording the statement of lien and the amount required to be paid for filing a termination thereof upon payment, and the signature and notarized statement of an officer of the association that the amount described in the statement of lien is correct and due and owing. Upon payment of the amount due in paragraph (ii) above, the payer shall be entitled to a recordable termination of lien for the amount paid. The liens recorded pursuant to this subparagraph shall expire on the first day of the sixtieth month after recording. This subsection does not affect the priority of mechanics' or materialmen's liens, nor the priority of liens for other assessments made by the association. The lien under this subsection is not subject to the provisions of homestead or other exemptions.

(c) Unless the declaration otherwise provides, if 2 or more associations have liens for assessments created at any time on the same property, those liens have equal priority.

(d) Recording of the declaration constitutes record notice and perfection of the lien. No further recordation of any claim of lien for assessment under this section is required.

(e) A lien for unpaid assessments is extinguished unless proceedings to enforce the lien are instituted within 3 years after the full amount of the assessments becomes due; provided, that if an owner of a unit subject to a lien under this section files a petition for relief under the United States Bankruptcy Code [11 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.], the period of time for instituting proceedings to enforce the association's lien shall be tolled until 30 days after the automatic stay of proceedings under § 362 of the Bankruptcy Code [11 U.S.C. § 362] is lifted.

(f) This section does not prohibit actions against unit owners to recover sums for which subsection (a) of this section creates a lien or prohibit an association from taking a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

(g) A judgment or decree in any action brought under this section must include costs and reasonable attorney's fees for the prevailing party.

(h) The association upon written request shall furnish to a unit owner a statement setting forth the amount of unpaid assessments against the unit. If the unit owner's interest is real estate, the statement must be in recordable form. The statement must be furnished within 10 business days after receipt of the request and is binding on the association, the executive board, and every unit owner.

(i) In a cooperative, upon nonpayment of an assessment on a unit, the unit owner may be evicted in the same manner as provided by law in the case of an unlawful holdover by a commercial tenant, and the lien may be foreclosed as provided by this section.

(j) The association's lien may be foreclosed or executed upon as provided in this subsection and subsection (m) of this section:

(1) In a condominium or planned community, the association's lien must be foreclosed in like manner as a mortgage on real estate by equitable foreclosure or executed upon by other lawful procedures provided for in the declaration;

(2) In a cooperative whose unit owners' interests in the units are real estate, the association's lien must be foreclosed in like manner as a mortgage on real estate; or

(3) In a cooperative whose unit owners' interests in the units are personal property, the association's lien must be foreclosed in like manner as a security interest under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code [§ 9-101 et seq. of Title 6].

(4) In the case of foreclosure, the association shall give reasonable notice of its action to all lien holders of the unit whose interest would be affected and to all other persons as would be required under applicable law for the foreclosure of a mortgage on real estate.

(k) In a cooperative, if the unit owner's interest in a unit is real estate:

(1) The association, upon nonpayment of assessments and compliance with this subsection, may sell that unit at a public sale or by private negotiation, and at any time and place. Every aspect of the sale, including the method, advertising, time, place, and terms must be reasonable. The association shall give to the unit owner and any lessees of the unit owner reasonable written notice of the time and place of any public sale or, if a private sale is intended, or the intention of entering into a contract to sell and of the time after which a private disposition may be made. The same notice must also be sent to any other person who has a recorded interest in the unit which would be cut off by the sale, but only if the recorded interest was on record 7 weeks before the date specified in the notice as the date of any public sale or 7 weeks before the date specified in the notice as the date after which a private sale may be made. The notices required by this subsection may be sent to any address reasonable in the circumstances. Sale may not be held until 5 weeks after the sending of the notice. The association may buy at any public sale and, if the sale is conducted by a fiduciary or other person not related to the association, at a private sale.

(2) Unless otherwise agreed, the unit owner is liable for any deficiency in a foreclosure sale.

(3) The proceeds of a foreclosure sale must be applied in the following order:

(i) The reasonable expenses of sale;

(ii) The reasonable expenses of securing possession before sale, holding, maintaining, and preparing the unit for sale, including payment of taxes and other governmental charges, premiums on hazard and liability insurance, and, to the extent provided for by agreement between the association and the unit owner, reasonable attorneys' fees and other legal expenses incurred by the association;

(iii) Satisfaction of the association's lien;

(iv) Satisfaction in the order of priority of any subordinate claim of record; and

(v) Remittance of any excess to the unit owner.

(4) A good faith purchaser for value acquires the unit free of the association's debt that gave rise to the lien under which the foreclosure sale occurred and any subordinate interest, even though the association or other person conducting the sale failed to comply with this section. The person conducting the sale shall execute a conveyance to the purchaser sufficient to convey the unit and stating that it is executed by the person after a foreclosure of the association's lien by power of sale and that the person was empowered to make the sale. Signature and title or authority of the person signing the conveyance as grantor and a recital of the facts of nonpayment of the assessment and of the giving of the notices required by this subsection are sufficient proof of the facts recited and of the authority to sign. Further proof of authority is not required even though the association is named as grantee in the conveyance.

(5) At any time before the association has disposed of a unit in a cooperative or entered into a contract for its disposition under the power of sale, the unit owners or the holder of any subordinate security interest may cure the unit owner's default and prevent sale or other disposition by tendering the performance due under the security agreement, including any amounts due because of exercise of a right to accelerate, plus the reasonable expenses of proceeding to foreclosure incurred to the time of tender, including reasonable attorneys' fees of the creditor.

(l) In an action by an association to collect assessments or to foreclose a lien on a unit under this section, the court may appoint a receiver to collect all sums alleged to be due and owing to a unit owner before commencement or during pendency of the action. The court may order the receiver to pay any sums held by the receiver to the association during pendency of the action to the extent of the association's common expense assessments based on a periodic budget adopted by the association pursuant to § 81-315 of this title.

(m) The following restrictions apply to any action by the association to foreclose its lien under this section:

(1) No foreclosure action may be commenced unless: (A) the unit owner, at the time the action is commenced, owes a sum equal to at least 3 months of common expense assessments based on the periodic budget last adopted by the association pursuant to § 81-315(a) of this title; and (B) the executive board expressly votes to commence a foreclosure action against that specific unit.

(2) The association shall apply any sums paid by unit owners who are delinquent in paying assessments as follows: (i) first, to unpaid assessments; (ii) then to late charges; (iii) then to attorneys fees and other reasonable collection charges and costs; and (iv) finally, to all other unpaid fees, charges, penalties, interest and late charges.

(3) If the only sums due with respect to a unit consist of fines and related sums levied against that unit, a foreclosure action may not be commenced against that unit unless the association has first secured a judgment against the unit owner with respect to those fines and has perfected a judgment lien against the unit under state law.

76 Del. Laws, c. 422, § 277 Del. Laws, c. 91, §§ 51, 52, 82.;